Relational Programming in miniKanren
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Untitled Relational Interpreter Book


William E. Byrd

Update (June 23rd, 02015):

New working title:

'Playing with Executable Semantics in miniKanren'

My current thinking is to show how to encode a number of formal systems in miniKanren, ideally directly from the semantics. This would include interpreters for both a Scheme-like language and the 'While' imperative language, along with other formal systems and languages.

I'm therefore working on yet another new outline (outline.txt).

Update (June 14th, 02015):

I've changed the name of the book/repository too many times, so I'll just call the repo 'untitled-relational-interpreter-book' for now.

The working title of the book is:

'Playing with Relational Interpreters'

I hope I can capture the sense of play and excitement I get from playing with the relational interpreter.

My current plan is to write a thin, very focused book on relational interpreters, with all non-awesomeness removed. I want the book to be readable by as general an audience as possible. Narrow focus, wide audience.

I'm working on a new outline (outline.txt). I've moved the old outlines to the old-outlines directory.

I've been moderating/hosting a series of weekly miniKanren "uncourse" Hangouts ( These hangouts have been extremely helpful for helping me understand how to teach relational interpreters. Many thanks to everyone who has participated!

Special thanks to: Celeste Hollenbeck for pushing me to keep working on this book; Michael Ballantyne for close collaboration on miniKanren and relational interpreters; Matt Might, who has made this collaboration possible; Michael Adams, for collaboration on tree automata for miniKanren, and countless helpful conversations; Celeste Hollenbeck and Maria Jenkins for helping figure out how to teach a minimal introduction to Scheme; Tom Gilray for explorations in 0-CFA in miniKanren; and all my other colleagues in the U Combinator lab and at University of Utah for creating an intellectually stimulating environment.

Special thanks to David Nolen for porting my dissertation to Clojure. I doubt I would have had the courage to continue working on miniKanren otherwise.

Special thanks to Stu Halloway for his quines observation, which has driven my research (and my sleep patterns) for the past three years. Thanks also to Stu and Joey for their amazing hospitality.

Special thanks to Rich Hickey, Lynn Grogan, Alex Miller, Nada Amin, Bodil Stokke, Fogus, David Nolen, Stu Halloway, and the rest of the Clojure community for being so welcoming.

Special thanks to Andy Lumsdaine and Rebecca Schmidt for their tremendous support -- and their friendship -- while I was at the Center for Research in Extreme Scale Technologies (CREST). And thanks to all the other CREST researchers and employees, whom I'll not try to name here for fear of leaving someone out. I'll save it for the book.

Special thanks to Alan Sherman at UMBC for his support and mentorship over the years.

And, of course, thanks to the usual suspects -- all the people who have developed and improved miniKanren and its variants and ports. Special thanks to my 'Reasoned Schemer' co-authors Dan Friedman and Oleg Kiselyov. I'm not going to try to name anyone else, since I know I'll accidentally leave people out. I'll try to thank everyone properly in the book. I fear this is already an impossible task.

Special thanks to my H211/C211/C311 students, and to my teaching assistants: Lindsey Kuper, Michael Adams, and Abdulaziz Ghuloum.

Finally, a very special thanks to my family for your love and support.

Old, hilariously optimistic update:

I'm currently (as of July 4th, 2014) working on a detailed outline for the book:

I'll begin writing prose in earnest once the outline is complete. I expect to be finished with the outline by mid-August, 2014.

Before writing prose, I might first use the outline as a basis for a Google-Hangout based mini-course on relational programming. This mini-course would help me flesh out examples, help me understand where people get confused, and help ensure the structure and order of presentation makes sense. Anyone interested in such a course can email me at



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (CC BY 4.0) (

The PDF file for the book is at:


Build instructions (somewhat out of date, but should still work; as of 14 June 02015 I'm using a new laptop with Mac OS 10.10.3 and a later TeX distro):

I build the book under Mac OS 10.8 using the MacTeX-2012 Distribution of TeX Live. ( For some bizarre reason, you need to be careful when downloading the MacTeX.pkg file, or it will be corrupted; one safe way to download the file is to use Safari. I'm typesetting the book using XeLaTeX, which should be included in any modern TeX distribution.

I'm using SLaTeX ( to typeset Scheme and miniKanren code. I've included SLaTeX in the Github repo, but SLaTeX expects a Scheme implementation in order to work. I'm using the 32-bit nonthreaded version of Petite Chez Scheme 8.4 ( If you use another Scheme implementation, you'll have to update the xeslatex file in the main directory, replacing petite with your Scheme implementation of choice. Of course you will need to make sure your Scheme implementation is on your PATH.

Once you have installed your TeX distribution and a Scheme implementation, you should be ready to typeset the book:

cd latex

make squeaky; make

make squeaky removes all generated files, including the PDF of the book. make clean removes temporary files, but not the book PDF.